Chicago Cubs: Suspension provides opportunity for Marquee

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs and Comcast SportsNet had a good relationship for a while. That ruffled the feathers of some fans

For years, Chicago Cubs baseball was associated with a longstanding partnership with WGN and, eventually, Comcast SportsNet. Before the suspension of play due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, Cubs baseball was set to have a new home: the Marquee Sports Network.

But rather than seeing the new network as something fresh and exciting, Chicago Cubs fans had disdain for the changes, and with good reason.

Cubs brass had mostly failed to ink significant cable deals with providers even at the beginning of spring training, forcing numerous fans (even at a local level) to either find other streams or risk sitting on the sidelines.

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Failure to come to terms with cable giants like Comcast spurred rage among the fan base, and it was worth asking whether Marquee would be included in these packages by the time Opening Day rolled around.

Of course, nobody knows when Opening Day will be, which should be seen as fantastic news for Marquee Sports Network. Sure, they might lose out on initial revenue from missed games, but every syndicated network is at a significant loss right now.

But if baseball returns–and there is a particular urgency among the professional sporting leagues to ensure their product will indeed resume–television and streaming will become paramount.

Think about it this way: there is a real possibility the 2020 MLB season will begin with teams playing in the absence of fans. Although Jeff Passan of ESPN indicated there is some tentativeness with respect to the idea, it seems like a foregone conclusion if MLB still hopes to play a significant chunk of the schedule.

If fans are not able to attend games, streaming becomes a premium. There is a reason came up with the “Opening Day at Home” campaign.

This is where Marquee Sports Networks can recoup some of its initial losses.

The demand for sports is going to be through the roof once the pandemic shows any signs of slowing down. That market expands further if fans cannot attend games, primarily because–for example–season-ticket holders will have more of an incentive to buy into certain packages so they can still watch their favorite teams compete.

Even if Marquee has to make some concessions in a potential deal with the likes of Comcast, they stand to make a great deal more because of how vital streaming will be to creating future revenue both for the Cubs and baseball in general.

Or, perhaps Comcast recognizes they also figure to benefit from a partnership with Marquee, in which case they might lower barriers to entry.

Either way, the current work stoppage has provided Marquee Sports Network with a tremendous opportunity to ensure future growth by figuring out new deals with different cable companies. It has suddenly become that much more imperative to get multiple seats at the table and hammer out the details.

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This is a critical juncture for Marquee. Not only would involving more cable companies ensure a higher revenue stream, but it would also go a long way in healing the initial divide between Cubs fans and the network.

That seems like an invaluable opportunity, to say the least.